To recap events to date: On Friday, March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake hit the northeast coast of Japan. It was originally graded at 8.8, then revised upward to 8.9 and now to 9.0. The earthquake generated tsunami, which struck the coastline ten minutes later. Ensuing aftershocks have in turn generated subsequent tsunami. Whole villages have been submerged and the death toll is expected to be high, but confirmations will take considerable time.
There are five nuclear energy plants in the affected area. I understand that three have been closed down safely, but problems remain at two: explosions and a partial meltdown have occurred. The level of nuclear disaster is currently being rated as 4 on an international scale of 0 to 7. (For reference, the 3-Mile Island disaster in the US in 1979 was rated as 5 on the same scale. Only one of multiple epidemiological studies performed during the 25 years since that accident has suggested any impact on longevity.)
Kyoto is a considerable distance from all of this disaster. I didn’t even feel the quake locally, though a friend of mine living here said she did feel it. My son lives in Tokyo and since the phone lines immediately went down, it was frightening to be unable to reach him for several hours, but he, his wife and my grandson are all safe.
The situation is of course, still evolving. In particular, the situation with the nuclear reactors seems to be evolving so quickly that the information becomes outdated by the time a spokesman can get on tv to deliver the update. For those who would like to keep in direct touch with developments, here are two links to NHK World Service in English.
On-line streaming television: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv
iPhone app for streaming tv: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nhk-world-tv-live/id350732480?mt=8